Tuesday, 30 March 2010

What's about?

If you had asked me "what's about" then I'd have said "not much old chap". But despite that I had three 3 year ticks taking my Norwegian year list to 84.

A Robin in the garden was number 1 and then a short trip upto to Maridalen added Whooper Swans 2 of which were sitting on the ice and another flying south and 2 Linnets feeding on seed heads showing above the snow. Little else to see: small numbers of Wood Pigeons and Chaffinches flying north but also a migrating flock of 13Jackdaws. A fine adult males Goshawk flew around the area before stooping behind some trees and not reappearing.

Friday, 26 March 2010

A Norwegian tick

The day started in Maridalen but low cloud led to no signs of migrations. The only interest other than the omni present Hawfinches was a single Long Tailed Tit and 4 Lapwings looking rather forlorn standing on the snow. I only lasted 15 minutes before deciding it was best to head for the coast where the low cloud would be less of a problem. Fornebu it was then and first stop was Halden Brygge which gives good views over the fjord aswell as having some open areas where I hoped for my first White Wagtail of the year. I scanned the sea and small islands picking up Eider, Oystercather, 2 Common Scoter, 3 Lapwings amongst others. Whilst doing this I was aware of a passerine calling close by which I couldn't quite place. The bird soon caught my eye and without bins I thought maybe it was a very early Wheatear. But no it was a female BLACK REDSTART. This was not only a Norwegian tick for me but a pretty good bird in these parts. I texted out the news but the bird appeared to have moved on after 15 minutes and as far as I know noone else relocated it.

A nice flock of 14 Velvet Scoters was offshore with another 2 seen flying around and a flock of 20 Twite buzzed over and 2 Starlings looked freshly arrived.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Viz Mig!

Viz mig (visible migration for the uneducated) started today in Maridalen. It wasn't a lot but there was just enough to keep me there for two and a half hours and it was finally the cold (or lack of warm clothes) that forced me to leave.
The day started with a male Merlin attacking an unidentfied passerine only yards from me which boded well. Upto eight Hawfinches were in the trees around the farmhouse at Nes and were singing their sqeaky song. The first sign of migration was small flocks of Wood Pigeons which were heading in many directions but mostly north. Whilst watching these I also became aware of small numbers of passerines (most likely Chaffinches) also flying north at height. 12 Skylarks also went north giving themselves away by the bubbly flight call. 5 Mistles Thrushes werre flying around the area, a Kestrel went through very purposely as did a Common Buzzard. A pair of Sparrowhawks were displaying, the local Raven was also flying around in what appeared to be a display flight, 23 Lapwings flew south (presumeably having failed to find anywhere suitable to the north), 5 Greylag Geese flew north and then a few minutes later came to the same conclusion as the geese and returned south.
So, it might not sound like much but in these climes this was enough to get the pulse racing.
I was joined by a couple of other birders today which made for an even more enjoyable morning. Hopefully we will find a mega this spring and cause a twitch (saying that though - 3 birders together in Norway is nearly a twitch!)

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Year list sores to 75!

A trip to the island of Gressholmen in the Oslofjord this morning added a few new species to an ever growing year list. I had hoped for even more but winter has still a grip on the Oslo area and the inter-tidal area where I had hoped to pick up a few waders was covered in ice and most of the island was still under snow. However spring was represented by 5 Skylark flying over, 15 Shelduck, a lone Canada Goose, Lesser Black Backed Gull, summer plumaged Black Headed Gull, a still winter plumaged Great Crested Greve and singing Chaffinches. Winter was represented by 7 Waxwings feeding on rose hips.

The first Crane of the year was reported in the Oslo area today which just gives me even more reason to be out in the field. I just know I will find some good migrants this spring!

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Finch fest

Even though there was fresh snow last night and the ground is still completely covered in the white stuff there is no stopping spring. Finches and Wood Pigeons are suddenly turning up. In Maridalen at a feeding station kept well stocked by a group of pensioners there is now a positive finch fest. 3 Hawfinch, upto 10 each of Brambling and Chaffinch (only just this week returning to the Oslo area), a couple of Lesser Redpolls (rare but regular around Oslo), Siskin and Greenfinches joined various Tits inlcuding Willow, Tree Sparrows, Great Spotted Woodpeckers 3 and Blackbirds (again newly returned).

I'm still waiting for visible migration to begin but it shouldn't be too long before Pinkfeet, some raptors and maybe Cranes grace the skies over Oslo.

Sunday, 21 March 2010


Inspired by a report of singing Tengmalms and Pygmy Owl not far from Oslo I drove around Maridalen this evening. It was a cloudless, windless night with a near half moon which I judged to be pretty good conditions. Despite stopping in a number of places and walking over a kilometre into the forest on the way to Mellomkollen I drew a complete blank on the target species (as I usually do).
Had better luck with Tawny Owl though with birds singing in 2 different localities. At one had a male and female calling together where with a bit of luck I should be able to locate the nest hole in daylight.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010


Drove to Søndre Mangen in Aurskog-Høland, about an hour from Oslo. This is a large area of commercially managed woodland with a mixture of pine and spruce, many lakes and marshes. The most prominent birds of the day were crossbills with many 10's. The vast majority (>90%) were males which were often in groups and singing. Presumeably the females are already on eggs. Although I got really good views it was not an easy task deciding what species they were. The birds were mostly associated with pine which is normal for Parrot and the previous week another birder visited the area and reported large numbers of Parrot and no Common. However the ones I was able to view and have photographed appear to be Common (although if I was at Abernethy maybe I would have said Scottish!). These pictures were part of a group of over 10 males and just one female that were on the road where they appeared to be eating snow.

Also seen were a single Long Tailed Tit, Crested Tit, Goldcrest, a Black Woodpecker heard and 4 Elk and about 14 Roe Deer. 2 of the Elk and 13 of the Roe Deer were attracted to a hay bale and carrots put out for them:

Snow is still very thick on the ground and rivers are still frozen. Consequently there were no migrants to be seen in the agricultural areas but they will be there soon.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

A local twitch

Twitched a local rarity today: 4 Purple Sands at Bygdøy (a peninsula within the city limits). Gave good views on small islands just offshore along with 40+ Oystercatchers, a single Black Headed Gull, 4 Common Gulls and a single Greylag Goose (all these species being newly arrived summer visitors).

Also this morning a quick cross country ski in Maridalen produced a single Black Woodpecker, Common Crossbils and Willow Tit.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

North of the Arctic Circle

Spent the weekend in Bodø just north of the Arctic Circle. Already there is more daylight here than in Oslo although there is as yet little warmth to be had from the sun. Bodø harbour was swimming in Eiders with one male King Eider plus a few Long Tailed Ducks.

Despite a number of gulls I couldn't locate any white winged versions. The Bodø area has one of the worlds highest densities of White Tailed Eagles and sure enough they were to be seen through out the weekend.

One real sign of spring was a couple of Oystercatchers freshly in. I was lucky enough to find Oslo's first of the year just 5 days ago so they waste no time pushing north.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Stayed on my feet

Same short skiing trip today in Maridalen but this time in mist. Completely different to yesterday with no birds singing and even the woodpeckers and tits were not very vocal. A small area of open water on Maridalsvannet had a lone Mallard which was a site year tick! Does it get any better than that?

One high point was that my skiing technique has improved to the extent that I did not fall over once - probably a first!

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Spring is coming

The snow is still thick on the ground but it is getting warmer everyday and the thermometer is now nudging above zero in the afternoon although the nights are still below freezing. A short cross country ski trip in Maridalen (my local patch just north of Oslo) under blue skies and a surprisingly warm sun revealed a few signs of spring:
Yellowhammers and various Tits were signing and woodpeckers were very conspicuous, mostly Great Spotted but a single Lesser Spotted was calling and a freshly excavated Black Woodpecker hole was found in an Aspen although the birds did not show themselves.

The coming months should be very exciting with hopefully everyday bringing new species. With my norwegian year list standing at a miserly 55 species it won't be too dificult to add on average 1 new species per day until the end of May.